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Let me get this straight first, I do not support the genocide that is happening to the Palestines in Gaza.

For a long time I felt very stressed by the news and images that flood my newsfeed on Facebook. I rarely post any comments or even post anything about it. I am not blind to their plight but I feel very uncomfortable of it. But it felt like I was not making a stand and that to me was even worse.

For the past several weeks, I have been posting pro-Palestine articles and images on Facebook. More and more that discomfort was leaving me. I pulled the courage to really look at the images and read the articles. I do not want to remain annoymous with my feelings anymore.

But when I encounter status post updates from friends who says that they are pro-Israel, I try to reflect on what is going on. It would be easy to just unfriend them for that reason alone. Yet I have to also consider that these people are good people who offered their friendship to me and they are people I also admire. Does this make me a hypocrite now? Does this mean I am biased? If I am such a staunch Palestine supporter, how come I am still connected with these people?

It is easy to allow emotions to get in the way. It is easy to just counter status them with I AM PRO-PALESTINE and ALL PRO-ISRAEL ARE IDIOTS. I do not believe that kind of behavior or mentality will promote any understanding. It will only breed discontent and even worse.

Islam ALLOWED EVERYTHING EXCEPT WHAT IT HAS SPECIFICALLY FORBIDDEN. One of the things that it has explicitly forbidden is GENOCIDE and TERRORISM. It's a no-brainer. It's very logical. It's that simple. People through the ages have tried to twist the truths around the Qur'an but failed.

Islam became widely spread through EDUCATION. Islam was lead by good example, not by the sword as some people continue to mislead others into believing. There is so much importance given on education that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said that the ink of a scholar is holier than the blood of a martyr. The first word of the Qur'an ever revealed to the Prophet was "Iqra" which means Recite, Read. That alone should emphasize the great importance of being properly educated. To learn things to improve one's life in this world to gain the bounties of the Hereafter. It is also that education that remains to be one of the strongest foundations as to why Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.

I am not able to go to Gaza due to financial reasons and safety. I am sure that a lot of Pro-Israel individuals also are unable to make the trip to show their solidarity for the same reasons as those who are Pro-Palestine like I am. So all we can do is support our choices in whatever way we can with the hopes that they will make a difference in the lives of those whom we care about.

For them to make a stand is their choice as I have openly made a stand about mine. The violence that is gripping in that country is more than we can imagine and hope we never have to experience for ourselves. Perhaps knowing where each of us stand should be enough to make a point. If Israel cannot exercise tolerance and refuse to co-exist with Palestinians and vice versa then my being intolerant of my friends' opposite views make me no different than a monster. If I am going to cultivate hate and promote ridicule to those who do not share my views then I am just as ignorant and terroristic with my ideals.

This is NOT what Islam teaches. Education is key. I will not stop posting articles and images that reveal the plight of the people's suffering. I will not stop praying for their safety, patience, survival and justice reach them. Nothing in this world is random. Everything has a purpose. There is wisdom in everything if we only have the patience to see it. I believe that spreading information will educate and touch the hearts and minds of those who need it. All we can really do is spread it as much as we can.

Guidance only comes from Allah and only He can choose whomever He wants to guide to the Straight Path. It is not up to us. It never was up to us. We tend to underestimate His Divine Power and Knowledge. We sometimes pray to Him like we are ordering takeout. We negotiate with Him like we would in a flea market. We are so full of ourselves and think we know better. We tend to forget that even if we stretched our minds so far and wide that it would still be encased within creation. It could never be outside of creation because WE ARE PART OF THE CREATION. WE ARE NOT THE CREATOR. We forget that Allah is outside of the creation. He has no beginning nor end. We do. We are so arrogant and that has always been our downfall. We tend to keep repeating history over and over. Some of the lessons already learned, we insist on unlearning them to prove a point. It's repetitive. We are too stubborn to realize our own faults so we tend to project them to others and worse blame God for our deeds. That's the BEST we can do. Blame. Blame. Blame. We remain stuck in a loop of our own blind stupid ego.

It is that blind stupid ego that we ought to be overcoming. This is the true struggle, the true Jihad. The battle within ourselves. Not genocide. Not quote the Qur'an out of context and make a bizarre interpretation of it. How many people have done that for centuries only to be exposed in the end? History teaches us that war never benefitted anybody nor anything. We are all losers. Yet people insist that war is the only way to get all the answers. Never realizing that the battle isn't out there but simply within us.

So I refuse to allow my ego to override my senses and disown friends and family who do not share my sentiments as the enemy. Shouldn't I be calmer and in control of my feelings more at this kind of situation? I will worsen the situation by declaring war at friends and family. What will that gain? Yes, it is natural for us to panic and worry but we cannot stay in that state too long because nothing gets done. We should try not to react to things out of sheer panic and worry because we throw logic and common sense out of the window. Understand that there is a Higher Power who really is in control of creation. The Master of all systems of knowledge.

This is not easy. It will take a lot of patience and tolerance on my part to be more understanding. Allah has given us everything we need to live in harmony with others, why complicate it with misunderstanding? It is easier to promote education and information rather than hate. Hate can consume us. Education enlightens us. I believe in that. I believe that peace will ultimately prevail. I believe there is a wisdom as to why this is happening in that part of the world. I believe that only God can change all things. Not humans. We make a mess of things all the time. We keep repeating ourselves. We think chaos will put things in order. No! Being at peace is what put things in order. God knows exactly what He is doing. We cannot even fathom His Infinite Knowledge. It is impossible. What we can do is believe in Him and trust His Way. If we can do just that then none of this mess would have happened in the first place. 
Current Mood: determineddetermined
05 June 2014 @ 03:08 pm

On April 21, 2014, Shamsa turned four years old. It's amazing that this little bundle of joy was only two years old when we made this historic life-changing move to the US and so far so good she has managed to adjust quite well even way better than I could have. She has always had that strong sense of belongingness wherever she goes. That amazing confidence never left her even when she was a little baby. It feels weird not calling her a baby from time to time. I have to control myself from saying so in order to emphasize to her that she is now a “big girl” but she will always be my baby girl.

Weeks ahead I have been looking online for affordable kiddie-friendly events that we could all go as a family. Originally, we were going to check out the zoo in Buffalo Shoals but Duston found so many negative reviews about it especially as to how the animals are treated there. So we had a change of plans at the last minute. I can't believe that there wasn't anything happening anywhere nearby on that day. However, our friend AJ was also celebrating his birthday on the 21st so we decided to meet up with Marj and AJ in Udderly Delicious for ice cream and miniature indoor golf. That was a fun experience since playing golf alone is a first for me and Shamsa. She was so game and very much involved. We chatted afterwards while having ice cream. She was not really interested with the chocolate ice cream (her choice!) we got her and preferred the flavor of the coffee ice cream I had instead. But then again she usually prefers whatever I am having. I guess it's true, mommy's food always seem to taste better than anything else. I would get home with a plain bottled water and she wants it.

Since the goal of enjoying the day as a family is a priority, we had birthday dinner at home. Duston and I were a tag team in the kitchen and we whipped up potato pancake muffins, rice with refried black bean topping, and beef-filled tacos. It was a success! For dessert, we had a sheet cake with the design from one of Shamsa's favorite movies, RIO. I took a video while Duston took some pictures. It was terrific to watch her blow her own candles without any help. We got her Doraemon shirts and shorts for her birthday gift. Mama and Dad got her something else special which I am not privy to share here.

Since Duston was still on leave the next day, we took her to the clinic for her vaccinations. She tolerated them so incredibly well for her age. Of course, I held her on my lap since I never had any fear of needles. Though she naturally cried because of the sting, she didn't fight or bawled like uncontrollably. As soon as it was over, Duston carried her and slowly she calmed down. By the time we got to the door, she had already stopped crying. I am so proud of her.

And that's not the only thing we are proud of her for, she truly is an incredible child. She has become more vocal and chatty. She is still very much prone to spouting random things but she is able to articulate what she wants and how she feels. She has become more daring having learned how to do sommersaults from her grandma. She loves jumping on the trampoline. She is so friendly that she will approach or point at any kid around her. She loves taking pictures with the camera that her Aunt Tara gave her. She loves her cartoons and varies from English shows to Japanese anime. She likes playing dress up. Her favorite is still being a superhero while tying her grandma's night shirt as her cape. She likes making hand puppets from strings and recently has taken a strong interest with my skirt and turned it into a skirt puppet princess. She will burst into a song at times and then the next moment she will be shaking her butt and dancing whenever she feels like it. She has become more and more cooperative with the morning routine I have established. We are still working on the potty training but she has become successful for most of the week and that alone is a major accomplishment. She loves to listen to me read and she likes to pretend to read. She gets excited whenever she is able to write letters and numbers correctly. Her artwork has become more and more expressive and she has attention to detail. Her favorite thing to draw is still the “Happy Face” and whenever I see her do it, it somehow speaks a lot about her. Being happy. She has always been such a happy baby. Sure she has her cranky moments but essentially she is happy. She never fails to tell me and her daddy that she loves us even without being prompted. You could hear it in her voice and her eyes that she meant every word. It was not something random to say. She has always been such an affectionate child. We love her so much and may Allah bless and guide her always. Ameen.

Current Mood: gratefulgrateful
Current Music: My Neighbor Totoro theme
06 May 2014 @ 03:49 pm
I know I should have blogged about this but things have gotten in the way before I could. For quite some time I felt absolutely stumped from being able to articulate my feelings in writing about this whole experience. On April 17, 2014, Thursday, I was promoted to the rank of blue belt in Shotokan karate.

Unlike the time I went for my orange belt test, this time I was given at least two weeks in advance notice to prepare for it. Although I felt out of breath in between the test drills, I didn't feel as bad as I did last time where I thought I was going to collapse from sheer exhaustion, nervousness, hypertension and dizziness. My sensei had been especially motivating and his words were comfort to my heart. No matter what happened at the end of this test, whether I pass or fail, I was giving it my best. It's true that everything I have managed to learn in class have been engrained in my mind and the time has come to see whether I would be able to demonstrate and apply them.

I went through the kata (forms) as best as I could. I am not a high kicker. My left leg cannot kick as high as my right. I am grateful that through it all, I have not slipped and fallen which speaks about my ability to balance myself. I am not here to compete with anybody. I am here to pass a test and to see what I am made of. The ONLY validation I have is the approval of my sensei after all this. What happens afterwards is up to me whether to accept it or not. My family and classmates assured me that I will be able to breeze through this. I take comfort in their encouragement but I do not allow it to overwhelm me that I become too self-confident. The more confident I become, the worse I tend to be that I forget the lessons I learned.

After everything had been done from demonstrating the basic drills and the kata, self-defense techniques and finally the two-round sparring, I was ready to just collapse on the floor. I managed to calm myself down as I waited patiently for sensei's decision. I was actually ready to accept that I did not pass and perhaps I should try again next time. I am always in this state of unsurety after a test. My mind is used to playing up worst-case scenarios and I ultimately have to prepare myself for it. I have to plan my next move and how I should feel. It will hurt but maybe I will be able to break its fall so I would not shatter to pieces.

Alhamdulillah, I did pass. My lips trembled as sensei tied the blue belt around me and I tried to keep a smile as we posed for pictures. I should be feeling like the worst is over but really it has not. I felt the pressure that I am only as good as the belt I have received. There are three more belts to go to reach black belt. I do not know what is going to happen between now and then. I am not going to fool myself into assuming that I will breeze through it as the others have. Sure my classmates and I share the same class and the same teachers but our abilities are nowhere near the same. I am not a strong fighter. I pray that I will never have to be in a situation where I need to physically fight for my life and the life of others. Not because of cowardice but because if push comes to shove, I will shove back. I fear my temper. I fear that I will lose control. I fear that I will regret my actions. I fear the consequences regardless of the result. I have always walked on eggshells in a spar. I do not have the confidence to look at my opponent in the eye. I am more concerned as to where those punches and kicks would land. Maybe I should look them in the eye next time but that will take some work on my part. All the flashy and lightning fast moves are not me. I know me. Perhaps being a prized candidate in kumite is not my destiny.

But when it comes to kata, I am attracted to the self-control it imposes. The memory and coordination it requires. It took a long while for me to figure out which way I should turn and what my feet and hands should be doing before I finally am able to feel the motions. It is easy to be lazy and reckless. It is easy to not pay attention. It is easy not to practice. It is easy not to observe the proper sequence of actions. But my nature refuses to do so. In kata, I know in my heart that I can do it the right way. This I know for a fact I am capable of doing. I can follow the discipline. I may not look as sharp and precise as the black belts I see on YouTube and in class but I know that I can pull it off for myself. I can ingraine in my mind that I do have coordination. The kata is not a dance. I do not know how to dance. It is an enigma to me. A kata is different, the mind and body are in harmony. There is a logic to each move.

As I go further into training, my mindset is becoming further and further away from a fight. I am more interested with getting a fight done and over with and walk away. Perhaps this is why I like self-defense techniques better. The kata gives me peace of mind even when I make mistakes. I take them seriously because I know I can do better. I can do it again. When a situation calls for it, there will be no one on my side. I am all by myself to remember each step of the way. I am not here to impress anybody. I am flattered and easily overwhelmed by the compliments I receive but it pressures me more not to rest on my laurels. I am only here to learn and see how far I can go, how far will my mind and body allow me. That is all I can really do and that is all I can ever hope to achieve. Alhamdulillah! Allahu Akbar!

A huge thank you to my teachers for guiding me all the way and for their patience in keeping the class together and focused despite the odds.
Current Location: Maiden, NC
Current Mood: hopefulhopeful
Current Music: There is Peace by Yusuf
25 April 2014 @ 12:30 pm
I am not much of a whiner where physical pain is concerned. I am usually the type to bear it and see how far I can tolerate the pain. I think this has something to do with getting attention from others which I am not exactly comfortable with. This is not to say that I do not appreciate the attention I get but I do not like to attract way too much attention just because I got hurt. If I can hibernate and wait for the pain to go away, I would prefer this very much.

However, this is not what happens when the pain becomes so severe that it leaves you paralyzed. The greatest physical pain I have ever endured was post surgery. The pain would be so intense that I get fever from it. The pain would be so intense that I become incontinent. The pain would be so intense that I become desperate for sleep that I do not dare have because no position would make me comfortable.

I am grateful that despite the severe intensity of pain, I have not passed out from it. I try to keep a small window of awareness of it. I need to feel alive. I refuse to give in. Even when I was under anesthesia, I tried my best to stay awake as far as I could. I did not wake up in a recovery room. I managed to wake up while the doctor was still stitching me up.

It has been four years since that intensity of pain has made me cry out and leave me almost paralyzed and utterly helpless from it. But just this Wednesday, I experienced it. Only this time it was not from my abdominal area but on my chest. It was excruciating, crushing and stabbing. Any movement I made including breathing made it extremely painful. The pain was overwhelming and desperately so. Thankfully, my husband decided to turn back and picked me up from the house to take me to the hospital. Each step I made on my way to the car left me in tears.

The pain was dead center in my chest, I could feel its wholeness and how it pulled everything together. The pain was horribly intense that it dictated my every move. I could only utter the Shahadah over and over to keep my mind away from it completely drowning me. If I was going to die at this very day, I refuse to curse the pain. I will not let the pain take me down with it.

When we finally arrived in the hospital, I was attended to right away. They took EKG and a chest x-ray. Interestingly, no one took my vital signs. They changed me into a gown and a semi-warm long towel blanket. There was actually more waiting than the actual treatment itself. They found out from my x-ray that I was developing early stage pneumonia. My EKG was clear and therefore nothing wrong with my heart. I didn't think there would be either. But the pain remained. They figured it might be musculoskeletal since I endured blows to my chest when I was taking my blue belt test last Thursday (hopefully, I will blog about this.) It could also be that my pneumonia got triggered as well,

The nurse gave me a shot of morphine and hydrocodone. One on each arm. Holy frijoles...the pain started to dissipate and I was getting into a state of heaviness and extreme sleepiness. I was given a 5-day dose of antibiotics for my pneumonia and some pain meds to tide me over just in case. I was weak after all that. I was grateful for my husband being near me. But I was so sleepy. Why people would even be addicted to morphine is beyond me! This is not fun at all.

As soon as we arrived home, all I wanted to do was sleep. I felt like being in the dark. Whenever I opened my eyes, it was sepia. Everything seemed toned down. We were in the emergency room for two hours, most of which involved a lot of waiting really. We got home at 1:45pm and I was asleep for six hours. The pain was pretty much gone by then but the heaviness has not left me. I still felt dizzy and floopy. My mind was swimming.

I am very grateful that I survived this. I am grateful for the support I received. I am grateful that this was not the day for me to die and leave my daughter. I am grateful for the wake-up call. It reminded me that I am not as invulnerable as I wanted to be. Alhamdulillah. Only Allah made it all possible. I do pray that I wouldn't have to go through this again but I am sure this won't be the last. Pain is a struggle of our patience in dealing with it. I hope I have been able to deal with it the best way I could at the time I was experiencing it. At the end of the day I got to experience another first in this country, visiting a hospital and getting a morphine shot.
Current Mood: okayokay
05 April 2014 @ 01:14 pm

I do not know what is it about memoirs and biographies that fascinate me so much. Even as a child, I was more interested with what was behind the fairy tales, what happens to the characters after they "live happily ever after."  Which character or story was inspired from which real events in history. I have always been interested with why people behave the way they are.  What history did they have that triggered such behaviors. What kind of memories did they share with people or kept to themselves.

Whenever I walk into a library, the first section I go to is the biography section. It's like being invited into their house. I may have watched this person on TV, movies and even read his/her works but once a biography or memoir is released about them, I feel this NEED to get that. There is a special place for those people who actually write their own stuff because it feels more personal especially when I can hear their voice in my head as I read the pages. Somehow you get a feel as to who is actually brave enough to unburden themselves on the pages from those who paint only the lovely exteriors while intentionally deluding their readers that they are being completely honest.

To be quite honest, I don't think that the writers have ever been "completely honest" about themselves when they write because not everything can be honest about a human being. Not everything is exciting and the stuff that is written in the book is required to be exciting so people will buy the book. If you are only writing for yourself then you make a journal or a private diary and for-your-eyes only. Perhaps there is so much more truth in it that a lot of them get hidden or burned (like mine).

It is still up to writer to determine what readers might want and to what extent can you "humanize" yourself to become vulnerable enough to reap the benefits and criticisms from readers. You still factor in whether the book is interesting enough for strangers to spend money on. Is it enough to hold their attention to get to the next chapter or AT LEAST turn to the next page or AT LEAST open the book. It is not easy at all. Some writers who are excellent storytellers have NOTHING to say about themselves or refuse to say anything and those end up being turned into biographies and readers get second, third, fourth-hand information about them. You finish reading the book and though you feel some sort of mystery uncovered, you know deep inside that if that the person in question would have said things a whole lot different. You hope that they agreed on some of the accounts based upon the evidence and references dug up.

So I just finished reading "Elvis by the Presleys."  As a longtime Elvis fan, I've been a fan since I was 12, if I had come across this book at that age, I would be shaking like a leaf. I would have considered this book absolute truth. There were hardly any libraries when I was growing up. The libraries were very limited to academic textbooks and the occasional fairytales. Most of the books I wanted to read could be found in private collections like my uncle and auntie had at their homes. My uncle kept his in the basement while my auntie had her books displayed at the porch. If you thought with such access I would be able to read as much as I wanted, you are mistaken. I could not take them out longer than a couple of days. I craved biographies, autobios and history books so much. Tragically, there were hardly any bookstores that would cater to my cravings either. Even if there were, buying books is considered a luxury. For as long as I have lived in Zamboanga City, I have never bought a single book. I didn't have to buy textbooks because the schools provided them.

I was finally able to experience a library when I was already in high school. The library was still very much limited but it did provide more variety than I could ever imagine. However, taking out books was still strict and most of the books I have been able to take out were for school assignments only. If I wanted to read something for my pleasure, I will have to find time to do it when I was in school. But since I discovered Elvis before entering high school, I have only been able to read about him through the encyclopedia P. I would have some pages xeroxed and that's about it. We didnt' have any encyclopedias at home either. We could not afford that.

As a teen, my hunger for "behind-the-scenes" just increased and I became obsessed with finding things about my family. I would go to my grandparents' home and just listen to their stories about their children. I would listen to opinions about my aunties and uncles about my father. Anything I could get, I wrote them in my diaries. Unfortunately, my father discovered them and like every dutiful Gestapo would do, I was made to burn them. Whenever I think about that day, I wonder if my father even remembered that. He never knew what an impact that gave me. I can never bring them back. A lot of history were in those notebooks all up in flames.

To curb that frustration and loss, I threw myself to reading romance novels. Some of them were from my mom's old collections, "reference books" as far as she is concerned. My mother is not a romance writer type. She only wrote love stories for the work being a scriptwriter for radio. Her forte was crime stories. My cousins had romance novels too, Mills and Boon mostly. My aunties would freak out when she caught any of us reading it so we traded these books like they were government secrets. Thankfully, my mother did not share in the freaking out since SHE has written love stories herself. She did not mind my cousins borrowing her volumes of bookbinded scripts. I too have immersed myself in those books. My mother did not mind. My father did and so I only read them whenever he was not around. The smaller novels were easier to hide.

I think losing all of my mother's scripts and books from the fire that razed our entire community was more painful. I can only imagine how my mother must have felt. All those years of careful storage and compilation, gone in flames. We could not save any of them. Perhaps if my father did not force me to burn my diaries, maybe they would have resulted in the same as my mother's books. But meh, my father could not wait that long.

When we moved to Manila, my book collection really has not improved. The library we had in college was as depressing as the waiting area of a morgue. There were only textbooks upon textbooks. I did not have the funds to purchase my own books. The National Library was not exactly the most convenient way to acquire books. The ONLY way I could be lucky to read a few was when I go to National Bookstore and even then, most of the books I wanted to read were encased in plastic.

It was only after my parents FINALLY separated that I have been able to slowly grow my book collection on various topics. The trend of thrift books, second-hand books became so widely popular that it fed my craving even more. I felt like I had to make up for years of book starvation. There were so many, many, many books and magazines to dive into. Still a lot of the good stuff eluded me because of financial capacity to aquire them. I got into Japanese manga and with the massive popularity and convenience of the internet, it was very easy to borrow, trade and share electronic books and manga files to friends for free. Through the years, my mother, brother and me have been able to collect so many, many books and magazines. Even my brother collected phone books and newspapers.

But with such easier access to reading materials online as well as offline, somehow I was able to develop a sense of what is trashy trash from the interesting. As much as I am still drawn to biographies, histories and memoirs, I can go through a few pages and feel that I have not even scratched the surface of their truest and innermost thoughts. Some are brave enough to spill the beans and allow themselves to look destroyed enough to look cool and interesting. Some are open enough to become scandalous and provocative.

Being a fan of Elvis and The Beatles, I found out that there is so much books written about them. However, no one can really know about them than the very people themselves. We are only left with their legacy through their music and influences. But with this "Elvis by the Presleys" book which I borrowed from the library is filled with a private collection of eye candies. This is the kind of book you read for absolute leisure and pleasure.  Even if you did not know about the guy, reading the book is enough to entertain you with the all the Elvis "artifacts" featured in each page.  After reading it, you are still as stumped as anyone to find out who the real Elvis really was. He remains to be an enigma even to his own family. This does not stop the fact that I am still a fan although I have much better things to do in my life now than obsess about him like I did when I was 12. I still dream of going to Graceland one day. That would be the ultimate destination for every Elvis fan. Same with The Beatles, perhaps visiting Strawberry Fields in Central Park, NY would be enough. Going to Liverpool would be too rich for me.

I have just finished going through the pages of Upstairs and Downstairs (The Illustrated Guide to the Real World of Downton Abbey) book which I also borrowed from the library and it surely has opened my eyes to a lot of things. I have to read it some more to understand further. So far I have realized that the whole trend of maid and butler cafes and Japanese anime about butlers and maids have NOTHING to do or even come close to the truths, drudgery and discipline to the people who ACTUALLY lived them. I am not saying that this kind of work was negative for their parts. Not at all. But it opened my eyes to appreciating that it was A REAL OCCUPATION, a WAY OF LIFE for the folks at the time. It was not the superfluous and narrow-minded view of what it is all about these days especially in the cosplay scenes.. Now when I look at cosplays of maids and butlers, it only reflects as to how limited and how little these people think of those people who actually worked as maids and butlers. It's almost disrespectful of their memory and lifestyle. Thank goodness even when I was still ignorant of maids and butlers, I never found any interest in cosplaying them at all. I have been spared of that.

I read Ellen Degeneres' "Seriously..I'm Kidding" book and that had zero seriousness at all. It was a go-to book for your amusement needs. You like to read someone fun, popular and still make you part of the in-crowd then this is the book for you. It is not shallow, okay. I like Ellen. I think she is wonderful. As I was reading her book, I wanted to have a copy of my own but afterwards, I am just glad I was able to read it from cover to cover but I do not see myself putting this as part of my collection. The challenge I now face being a bookworm with the ability to collect is determining a book whether it is a keeper. Is this something that will still be relevant to me next year? Is this something I will not be ashamed to share to my child? Is this something I do not mind recommending to someone else?  I get pickier if it is a book that I have to spend money on. It better be worth every cent. So far I have been lucky to find really good books for free. I have a collection of hardbounds, paperbacks and ebooks. I need to find the time to go through them all.

I do not think that a reader should feel obligated to read a book from cover to cover unless it is the Qur'an. Other than the Qur'an, allow yourself the freedom to sift through books to your content and level of interest. I have given away so many books to friends, family and even strangers. I have sold them to whomever found them interesting. The ones I treasured in the past but no longer holds relevance in my life, I give them away to dear friends. For a long time, I felt that I should read books from cover to cover. This has contributed to the fact why a lot of my books have not been read yet. That has changed. Thank goodness!

My current book craves are Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir, Dolphy and the first 30 decades of Eat Bulaga. Looks like these will cost money to acquire but I think they're worth it. I have been lucky enough to get Corey Feldman's 'Coreyography'. Surprisingly I am reading great reviews about it. I was also able to borrow Patrick McManus's books from the library. Oh, I LOVE this author so much. I wish to complete my collection of his books.

I feel very fortunate to be a daughter of a writer. I am also married to a husband who is a reader, a walking trivia and collector. A mother-in-law who is a writer. A father-in-law who is also a reader and filled with information. Now a daugter who likes reading too. I feel much more relaxed to write my stories and keep a journal without the threat and fear of being discovered. I feel like my life has come full circle.  Alhamdulillah!
Current Mood: calmcalm
Current Music: Amore by Dean Martin
19 March 2014 @ 02:06 am


Last Sunday we decided to visit The Catawba Science Center and watch an underwater documentary feature called "Into the Deep" in the planetarium. You know this is my very first time to be inside a planetarium. I mean, I know what it's for and I have seen people in movies and TV look like when they're inside but I do not know exactly what to expect if I ever did experience it for myself.

The Philippines has a planetarium. In Manila where I grew up, there was a planetarium that was constructed during the Marcos time. My parents never took me there because there was an age limit thing. I dunno. By the time I was in college, it was long closed and I hear people say that there was no assurance if it will ever be open again. Some said that it needed serious updating with regards to its technology and information. I think it's really sad that it stayed closed for a long time. It gave off that impression that it was something that didn't matter anymore or was another sad reminder how much the education system has sucked through the years. As of writing, I still do not know the status of the Manila Planetarium. I might have to look it up soon.

So there we were inside the planetarium. There were two other families who joined us but there really was only a handful of people including us who were in there. There were many vacant seats around. It was like a MOVIE THEATER! The differences were the seats. They had a higher back support. The screen that was situated on the ceiling. The controls were manned by just one person and it's located at the center of the planetarium. I was so excited!

It has been YEARS from the last time Duston has been in a planetarium. This is a first for me and Shamsa. I was concerned that she might get bored or restless but she wasn't at all. She was completely mesmerized by it all.

I think it was quite interesting that mankind's curiosity of the deep sea life was prompted by a familiar person in Philippine history, Ferdinand Magellan. For years, school has taught me and focused on him as being the first European who claimed to have "discovered" the Philippines. He was an explorer and navigator alright but we were never oriented by the fact that it was finding out whether there was life in the deep blue sea that got him near the Philippines in the first place. I am beginning to wonder if the reason why he bothered coming to the Philippines because it was so conveniently located near the Mariana Trench which is the deepest part of the world's oceans where he tried to find out just how deep it was. He was in the Mariana Islands on March 7, 1521 and then he arrived in the Philippines on March 16, 1521. It was very much short-lived by the following day. Chief Lapu-Lapu made sure of that.

But going back to watching Into the Deep, I find it incredible that despite CENTURIES of mankind's attempts to discover about ocean life, we have merely scratched ONE PERCENT of it. As the narrator said it was akin to discovering JUST ONE elephant. It was only in the 60s when we learned about Bioluminescence or "cold light" emitted by the jellyfishes that were found at around 10,000 meters deep. It was incredibly fascinating to know that bioluminescence power was 100% brighter compared to a light bulb which was only a mere 5%. Can you imagine that? I didn't even know that!

I am watching all the spectacular and mind-blowing discoveries and the fact that even if you put all the highest mountain peaks together, none of them would even reach the surface of the sea. Mankind has only been able to touch about 11,000 meters. Yet there is so much more mysteries surrounding the ocean floor.

All I could utter was "SUBHANALLAH!" Praise be to Allah. I willed myself not to cry as I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer majesty and vastness of the universe. There was a 7-minute bonus feature about "The Winter Sky" and that added to my already mind-blown brain. I remembered what Imam Khalil said in a Taleem speech which I am transcribing and he mentioned that scientiests only know things up to a certain point. When they do not have the answers, they label it as yet to be discovered or further studies are still undergoing. But for the believers, we simply say, "God." I am definitely no scientist. But what the Qur'an teaches, a lot of it has been recently proven to be true by science. The Qur'an is scientifically sound yet it is not a mere science book. It is so much more intense than any book in the world. It is a guide to a way of life in this world and the Hereafter. It is the LAST REVELATION and holds all the answers to every mystery if we only know where to look and how to interpret it.

Nothing in this universe is random. I believe that visiting a planetarium should be part of da'wah. It is incredibly effective. It was such a humbling experience. It made me realize even more that we have no reason to be arrogant in this life. We cannot claim to know it all. Even the most brilliant person cannot rest on his/her laurels and feel vastly intellectually superior. We are not. We are so lost. We are so needy of the One Creator. Without Him, we are nothing. Nothing in this universe is an accident. The Big Bang Theory is nothing more than a TV show. It will ONLY remain a theory. That is that. One cannot simply deny that someone is in control of everything because simple logic and common sense tell you that there is someone who is indeed in control of everything. The universe is not a big playground for His amusement. We are not his pawns to play with. There is a wisdom in each and everything around us and happens to us. We are all here for a reason and one reason alone and that is to worship HIM and no one else. Our very nature, our very soul is aligned to that. This is what we are made for. He gave us all the tools to examine and discover and study His provisions. We DEFINITELY have ABSOLUTELY NO reason to be arrogant and flippant. I believe that to deny God's existence is simply denying one's very own existence.

I am extremely grateful to my husband for taking me and Shamsa to experience this unforgettable lesson. To appreciate Allah more than ever. To remind us of our mortality and how much we have yet to learn. This was truly an emotional and spiritual experience.

Current Location: Catawba Science Center
Current Mood: impressedimpressed
10 March 2014 @ 01:54 pm

I find myself drawn yet again to the lovely works of Yumeka Sumomo. I have kept some of her works for years but now I just want to have them al, anything I can have access to, I will find it and get itl. After reading the first manga I came across, I just knew right there that if there was any mangaka I would love to illustrate my stories, it would be her. She has captured the style and emotions that I have always been looking for. I have been drawn to so many, many artworks but it's one thing to admire them for what they depict for themselves and another to feel strong affinity towards it.

I am bewitched and completely enthralled by her artwork and the fleeting passion it resonates. The stories she has made vary from the completely shallow to the lovable deep. I could relate to that so much because I have written stories in this manner. Her works do not intimidate. They could easily seep in to the consciousness akin to loving a cookie so much that you still keep the jar because of the delight it brought you when it was still full of cookies. The sweetness has never left you. Even if the jar is old but whenever you see it, it makes you smile. This is exactly how I feel about Sumomo-sensei's works.

She has gotten me to revisit my love for manga reading again. I was quite voracious for some years but I have put it off since I arrived here in the US. But now I am completely drawn to them again although it is only HER works in particular that I crave the most. I have yet to be disappointed of what I have read so far and what I have been able to acquire. I do not claim that I will be nose deep into manga reading again and leaving wild reviews like I did before.

I only LIKE HER. I only WANT her works to read manga-wise. Perhaps the inspiration to get into my story writing will be rejuvenated sometime in the near future. I have already decided to switch gears when it comes to the genre. I believe I have some more stories to write about. Right now I am going to take all the inspirational marrow of Sumomo-sensei's works. I adore them. To think that she always feels disappointed that her works are not quite good but that by itself is attractive enough for me. The fact that she feels that way yet she continues to keep writing and drawing is incredibly moving for me.

I love her whimsy. I love her heroes and heroines and her random characters. I love how she draws them to be attractive yet invokes sympathy from its readers. Not the sappy type of sympathy, of course. It makes you want to be their friend or at least someone who is there to listen and take the time to read and reflect. I am mesmerized by its sentimentality and simplicity. How it caters to the young at heart.

I am so excited to read this. My Girl. I think my heart is going to squee.

Current Location: Maiden, NC
Current Mood: enthralledenthralled
Current Music: Keep Trying by Utada Hikaru
06 March 2014 @ 01:24 pm
Just got the call yesterday that my lab exam results and Pap smear came out NORMAL! ALHADULILLAH! ALLAHU AKBAR! I felt overwhelmingly relieved beyond measure. I have been feeling very concerned about it especially the Pap test since I don't remember ever getting one before. I mean, I have had pelvic exam done to me while I was pregnant and right afterwards. I feel so happy!

I was planning on telling my mom about it but we only got to talk for five minutes until her cellphone load ran out. I don't feel exactly up to my 100% yet but the lab tests coming out normal is an answered prayer. I still experience headaches and occasionally my blood pressure would rise. I still have my abdominal cramps which usually happens whenever I have my period. And of course my lactose intolerance. I do have Lactaid for it but I don't like having to take too many pills for almost everything. I am still the type who will exhaust conservative means before ultimately heading to a doctor.

Duston and Shamsa will be scheduled for their annual physicals very soon and I hope and pray that their results will come out normal as it did mine.
Current Location: Maiden, NC
Current Mood: thankfulthankful
Current Music: Sana'y maghintay ang walang hanggan by ZsaZsa Padilla
04 March 2014 @ 04:43 pm
I had my first annual physical examination last Wednesday since I arrived here in the US. I did not know that a Pap's smear was default. Usually this exam is OPTIONAL in the Philippines at least in all my experiences with annuals. But there I was and being poked internally. It was uncomfortable but not painful. I felt a bit ooky afterwards. What I am most impressed was going for the blood chem. The technician was nice and friendly. Adding that to the fact that I am not afraid of needles and thankfully I also unintentionally fasted the night before or they would have to reschedule me. Duston was with me the entire time except when I had my blood drawn.

What they did not do was get a urinalysis and fecalysis. I didn't even get my butt poked either. The examining doctor was bothered about the size of my left tonsil which was so much bigger than my right. I'm now wondering if she thinks I should get surgery for it to take them out. I don't exactly have any problem breathing in and out and I swallow food just fine. Of course, when I get sick, it gets very inflamed but not inflamed enough to block my esophagus.

During my examination where the doctor palpated me, I had to wear a paper gown. This is a new experience for me since all my physical exams in the past only required me to wear a patient gown. But here I wore all paper. I kept my hair covered with a cap and they didn't mind that. They didn't see a need to examine my head anyway. I found the whole experience of paper amusing. It also made me think of patients who are on a suicide watch. Is this exactly the same thing they wore too?

Anyways, I am surprised that I actually have NOT lost that much weight either. I felt heavy and unhealthy when I first arrived here. But since I started attending karate class back in October 2012, I felt lighter, stronger and healthier. But when my weight was taken, it showed that I only lost THREE POUNDS! WHUT? The doctor said I was overweight for my height. I don't exactly blame her but Duston said if they had taken my BMI that would have not been the case at all. I agree with him too. But I am not going to obsess over the "overweight" issue because I know and feel that I have lost more than just THREE POUNDS. I am fitting into clothes I would have just given away easily a year ago. I can lift Shamsa easily and at longer period too. I am able to do drills in class and floor exercises that made me feel like dying a year ago.

But like I said I am not taking anything against the good doctor. With my height, it is overweight on the surface. I wonder if I can still reach the kind of weight I had back in 2006 and how slim I was then. But then I thought did I feel stronger back then? Or just slimmer?

My main concern though is that hopefully when the results of my Pap's smear and blood come out they are nonsignificant insha Allah.
Current Mood: calmcalm
Current Music: Goodnight girl by Wet Wet Wet
03 February 2014 @ 01:31 am

Shamsa absolutely LOVES this movie. Part one was released in 1998 and all those years I never bothered to watch it because the singing voice of Mulan was done by Lea Salonga whom I absolutely hate. Don't get me wrong, she is a good singer and stage actress but damn her ego and arrogance is off scale.

Anyways, so many years has passed and since we've arrived in the States, I have been exposing Shamsa to various animated movies. I have started her with Disney princess movies. She started with Cinderella and got stuck with that for awhile. She has then moved on to Tangled and for a very long time, she was hooked with it that she could watch it over and over everyday. I enjoyed Tangled but having to watch it repeatedly everyday can become a chore. I have to get her off it and expose her to other stories of female characters who knows how to fight back. This is how I came around with Mulan. In fairness though, it was actually a good movie and had a good story to back it up. It had likeable characters. Shamsa fell for Mulan INSTANTLY. Mulan has become her routine. She also loves Mushu, the dragon.

Somehow Lea Salonga's singing voice does not grate my nerves anymore like it did before. I am able to tolerate it. Perhaps I have grown older and it is a good song with touching lyrics. No wonder it was so popular.

I didn't even know there was a sequel to this movie and it was a direct-to-video release so I thought I might as well get both, parts one and two. The sequel is quite mediocre compared to the first. Although the characters from the first movie remained with the addition of the three princesses and other royalties, the story itself falls flat. Might I also add the songs were atrocious and lacking. The three soldiers have become more and more caricatures of The Three Stooges. The three princesses remind me of those damsels in distress from B movies. Also the main villain of the movie is no other than Mulan's trusty guardian, Mushu. It's like everyone had to work on a tight budget that they cannot afford to think of anyone else.

Even from the first movie, I was not actually sold with Mulan's love interest, Shang. In part two, my impression of him has gotten even worse. I am just going to cast him as one of those Disney men who were absolutley annoying. In this movie, they have ridiculed him even more. In a real life setting, he's pretty much a jerk. Why Mulan is still in love with him can be anyone's guess but hey why complicate a sequel with such intricate characterizations and plot when it's a direct-to-video release only? Hmmmmm...?

But then who am I kidding? Disney has always been notorious for exploiting inaccuracies thus giving it the Disney treatment and you end up watching a totally different kind of story from what you may have read from books. This is not an attack of Disney movies in general. I grew up watching Disney films as a child and there are those that I hold dear for sentimental reasons and good music. However, Mulan 2 is a travesty. I feel cheated that Mulan's character has been downplayed and everything she stood for from the first movie became a joke.

At this point, I am not going to influence Shamsa about all these details and observation. She is only three years old and all she cares about now are the three princesses who will meet the boys and they're gonna KISS. Mushu amuses her. She seems impressed of Mulan. She is having a good time watching it over and over. But like the others she will eventually tire of it until she gets hooked on to the next animated movie I will expose her to. Mulan as a character based on the first movie is likeable, strong, loyal and brave. Qualities I would like Shamsa to be exposed to. Women are more than capable of learning to defend themselves and yet at the same time embrace their femininity and celebrate it. The first movie really showed how much she loved her family and only aimed to protect them yet following her heart at the same time. It was a really good story. Mulan 2 is really a downer. Perhaps when Shamsa grows older, she will be able to notice the disparity of both these movies for herself but until then, she will be asking to watch it when she wakes up in the morning.
Current Location: Maiden, NC
Current Mood: disappointeddisappointed
Current Music: Reflection by Lea Salonga